Thursday, August 14, 2008

Clients with Previously Rejected Material

I think I’ve told you more than once that many of my clients had been previously rejected by me. They had voices I loved, but the first book just didn’t pan out. Thank goodness they kept at it, because it’s so thrilling to me to take on a new client, especially when she’d previously written something I couldn’t stop thinking about.

But what about all of those queries or proposals I passed on before. Can this client now send them my way, especially since I am her agent, and expect that I’ll submit them on her behalf? Will I even look at the books again or is it automatic that they’ll go under the bed never to see the light of day again?

As always, this is an “it depends” answer. If the author still really believes in those books we should absolutely talk about them, and there are definitely times when I’ll take a second look. Typically, though, in all of these experiences, the author has made the decision herself that they aren’t ready. Once the offer is received I think in most cases the author was able to see that her current work is so much stronger and that if she’s going to want to sell those other works they are going to need to be completely rewritten.

I can’t think of a time when I sold or even submitted a book from a client that I had previously rejected. I think in most cases it was either completely rewritten or placed under the bed. Though I do have a story of a mystery writer that’s kind of fun. Back in 2001, the author and I had tried to sell her mystery. The hook wasn’t what editors wanted and eventually we shelved it. Well, about a two years ago, in 2006 actually, the author and I were talking about a new hobby of hers and I suggested maybe that would make an interesting mystery series. Well, she pulled out that first manuscript, took that heroine and made her into someone new and exciting. And guess what, the first book of a six-book deal just released this year. So don’t completely give up on those “other” books, but know that maybe by the time they come out again they are not going to at all resemble what you first intended.



Susan at Stony River said...

I love this post. I sent a manuscript to a list of agents two years ago, and it came back every time. Into the drawer it went, because I had no idea what it needed but I still liked the premise.

Then, just a few months ago, something brought that old story back to mind--with a whole new view on it, a new protagonist, and a twist that makes it much better.

I must admit I've been in two minds about re-working something that wasn't wanted before, so your post made my day: thanks!

Keri Ford said...

This is timely! I too am reworking something I had drawed. It's been on my mind. I knew it had problems. I just didn't know what. I entered it in a contest to get some fresh eyes and a good honest critique. I could tell the judges seemed a little frustrated with it, because it had so many holes and things that just didn't add up.

Now, little underlining things that I didn't know was in there is coming to life. It's making for a much better story. Now that I've reworked the opening, back into the contests it'll go to see if the changes made a difference!

Sabina E. said...

mmhmm writers need a real thick strong skin. Rejection, at first, is awful and sickening. Rejection, 37 times later, is just as awful but eventually you learn to accept it, keep your dignity and keep going.

*le sigh*

Robena Grant said...

It's hard to know when something you were passionate about writing is worth the time to re-work.

I have one story where an editor loved the premise but not the villian. He said he wasn't dastardly enough. I know what I have to do with the character and story but I'm sure there are other issues or mistakes of a novice writer in there and I'd only end up making a big mess or tearing my hair out. Maybe, one day ...

Kate Douglas said...

Robena, just don't give up. When I look back at some of the stories I wrote and submitted twenty years ago (and yep, I've kept them, thinking "maybe someday" because I actually like the premise)it's like reading stories by someone else. With each project we attack and each manuscript we finish, we are learning more about how to write a book, learning more about the craft of writing, and we're learning more about ourselves. There is SO MUCH growth that takes place with each completed manuscript--just don't give up!

Jess Anastasi said...

As others have already said, this is a timely post!
For my own part, not to long ago a critque partner of mine asked what I had done with a particular manuscript I'd been working on a few years back. I never submitted the manuscript anywhere, it basically got put away as soon as I finished writing it. Even though I loved it to death (literally) there were a lot of problems with it and I just didn't know where to begin fixing it. I hadn't quite settled into my voice yet, so it was kind of all over the place. My critique partner recounted the storyline almost scene for scene. Apparently the actual sorty and characters had made an impression on her, despite the fact that it had been years since she'd read it... the writing, not so much!
It was an interesting coincidence since I had actually began thinking about it again and considering doing a rewrite (because that's the only thing that's going to save it!) as I really did believe it had a special something to it. Although my critique partner gave me back some confidence about it, I am still trying to decide what to do and this post happened to be very helpful!